Peter Ochieng: Kenyan Lecturer Becomes First DeepMind Fellow In Computer Science at Cambridge University

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Dr. Peter Ochieng [Photo|Cambridge University]

Kenyan researcher and lecturer at the Taita Taveta University Dr. Peter Ochieng has made history after being appointed the first DeepMind Fellow in computer science at Cambridge University.

The don is a researcher in natural language, artificial intelligence (AI) and biomedical ontologies keen at solving community’s challenges using technology.

Ochieng’s appointment came to realization through DeepMind, an AI company based in UK that seeks to bring together scientists from countries where the subject of AI is underserved. DeepMind does this through the funding of postgraduate students in the field of computer science. According to Ochieng, the matter will present a new opportunity to further his career and at the same time allow cooperation with other scientists.

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“I am so excited to have this new role and to be able to come to Cambridge to meet new people and work with researchers who have expertise in different dimensions to me. A prerequisite of this role is collaboration so I’ll be looking for colleagues I can collaborate with across different domains,” he said as captured by Cambridge University.

Career 

The lecturer works at the Taita Taveta University’s Informatics and Computing Department. He has interests in agritech innovations which can help key stakeholders in increasing their yields and also in diagnosing various diseases.

Though he has faced the challenge of developing conversational machine reading tools, Ochieng has been able to develop an app that can help in diagnosing poultry diseases. He experimented in coming up with the app that can answer both general and specific questions regarding particular diseases.

Developing such apps now faces some substantial problems, such as processing the 60+ indigenous languages spoken in Kenya and East Africa. Many Kenyan apps use English due to its popularity and the fact that it is an official language. However, Ochieng wants to change this and has decided to venture into apps that use local languages for the benefit of people living in rural areas.

We want apps to use local languages so that people may benefit from them appropriately,” Dr. Ochieng explains. He provides as an example a GPS program built in the Luhya language that is used to advise people with visual impairments.

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Ochieng’s appointment comes at a time when the subject of artificial intelligence is gaining immense publicity on the global arena. Many companies especially the ones that handle bulky data are employing the phenomenon which helps in solving complex tasks. Currently, the emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) cannot be underestimated.

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